Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives

Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives

Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives

Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives

Synopsis

Foundations of Speech Act Theory investigates the importance of speech act theory to the problem of meaning in linguistics and philosophy. The papers in this volume, written by respected philosophers and linguists, significantly advance standards of debate in this area.Beginning with a detailed introduction to the individual contributors, this collection demonstrates the relevance of speech acts to semantic theory. It includes essays unified by the assumption that current pragmatic theories are not well equipped to analyse speech acts satisfactorily, and concludes with five studies which assess the relevance of speech act theory to the understanding of philosophical problems outside the area of philosophy of language.

Excerpt

Savas L. Tsohatzidis

Suppose all you know about John is that, in uttering a certain sentence yesterday at 5 p.m., he either gave permission to Mary to marry a linguist, or wished Mary to marry a linguist, or asked whether Mary is going to marry a linguist, or predicted that Mary will marry a linguist, or objected to Mary's marrying a linguist. Could you validly infer, from this piece of disjunctive knowledge, that, no matter which one of these five things John might have done in uttering the sentence, what he would have meant in uttering it would be the same? You certainly could not. And this suggests that, in order to identify what a speaker means in uttering a sentence of his language, it is not enough that you should know which individual he thereby purports to identify (for example, Mary) and which property he thereby purports to, truly or falsely, ascribe to that individual (for example, the property of getting married to a linguist at some point in the future)-to put it more generally, it is not enough that you should know which proposition he purports to be expressing in uttering the sentence he utters. What is required, in addition, is that you should know what is the meaning-determining act in the context of which he expresses that proposition-whether, for example, he expresses it in the context of an act of giving permission, or in the context of an act of giving a wish, or in the context of an act of asking a question, or in the context of an act of making a prediction, or in the context of an act of raising an objection, and so on.

These are some of the acts that, under the generic name of illocutionary acts that was given them by Austin (1962), constitute the primary subject matter of speech act theory. Why should they be deemed worthy of linguistic or philosophical interest? The main reason derives from what has just been said of them-namely, that they appear to be meaning-determining acts, in the sense that the identification of what a speaker means in uttering a sentence of his language is not possible, even after the proposition he thereby purports to express has been identified, unless it is further determined which one among the various types of acts of this kind he is engaged in performing by means of his utterance. If this is so, and if the study of what speakers of a natural language mean by uttering sentences of that language is, as it is generally acknowledged to be, a

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